Liverpool pushed Fulham closer to relegation from the English Premier League with goals from Jermaine Pennant and Peter Crouch earning a 2-0 win at Craven Cottage on Saturday.
As expected, Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez made major changes from the 3-1 win over Blackburn last weekend, resting eight players with the focus on Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final first leg against Chelsea.
But unlike this fixture last season, when a Clint Dempsey goal won the game to save Fulham from the drop, Liverpool cruised to victory.
Winger Pennant opened the scoring with a 17th-minute strike, before England striker Crouch made sure of the points with a 70th-minute shot that dribbled underneath Fulham goalkeeper Kasey Keller.
The Cottagers now sit five points from safety with three matches to play, while Liverpool, fourth in the Premier League, can head into the Chelsea clash full of confidence.
Benitez left captain Steven Gerrard and Ryan Babel out of the squad, while Fernando Torres and Jamie Carragher began on the bench.
Fulham boss Roy Hodgson, meanwhile, decided to stick with the same side that earned a crucial 2-0 win over Reading last weekend.
It was Liverpool who had the first attempt on goal on 14 minutes, as Crouch headed wide from a deep Pennant cross.
Two minutes later, the Reds went ahead. Lucas Leiva won the ball in midfield and found Pennant on the right side of the penalty box.
He broke into the area and drilled the ball into the top corner of Keller’s goal.
Dempsey was Fulham’s most creative player early on, but Hodgson’s men lacked a cutting edge in attack.
Their first chance fell to defender Brede Hangeland just before the half hour mark, but the tall Norwegian failed to hit the target with a header from eight yards.
On 37 minutes, American forward Brian McBride wasted a half-chance, scuffing a shot into the ground on the corner of the Liverpool six-yard box.
After half-time, stand-in Liverpool skipper Sami Hyypia was replaced by Carragher and Fulham would have been hoping to increase the tempo of their play in a bid to get back into the game.
However, it was the visitors who started brighter.
Their first shot on goal of the second half came on 54 minutes, as forward Andriy Voronin’s overhead kick drifted over the crossbar.
A good block by Paul Stalteri denied Liverpool’s Yossi Benayoun soon afterwards.
Fulham closest effort on goal came after 64 minutes.
Jimmy Bullard floated a free kick into the penalty area, and Dempsey’s header arrowed narrowly wide of Reds goalkeeper Jose Reina’s post.
Demspey missed another chance on 68 minutes, this time heading over the bar from a David Healy right-sided cross.
Liverpool made them pay for their failure to find the target on 70 minutes. Pennant played a neat ball into Crouch, who took an assured touch and tucked the ball beneath Keller for his only fourth league goal of the season but 12th in all competitions.
It was a killer blow for Fulham, and when Danny Murphy had a side-footed shot stopped by Reina three minutes later, any hope of salvaging a point all but disappeared.
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